November 15, 2013

‘What would you cut?’

‘Nonpartisan’ play on the Constitution follows federal debt talk

By Christopher Smith

— Members of the Friends of the Constitution, a group of actors who bring early American history to life on stage, hope to give more power to the people through their performance on Saturday.

Local residents will have a chance to imagine being in charge of spending cuts to the federal budget during a workshop on Saturday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Crosspointe Christian Centre in Dalton before doors open for “Founding Fathers,” a play about the creation of the Constitution set for 7 p.m. The play is directed by Virginia McChesney and has a cast of 31.

The workshop is one of several government education booths before the show, which take about 45 minutes to go through, said event organizers. Those who take part in the pre-show education can attend the play for free. All others pay $5.

Keith Cochran, an accountant from Tunnel Hill, is leading the federal budget workshop in an effort to inform people about the nation’s rising debt, now more than $17 trillion.

Cochran said he will provide an itemized list of the federal budget to educate citizens about where tax dollars are spent, asking them, “What would you cut?” as a kickoff to one-on-one conversations.

“This isn’t a Republican or Democratic thing,” he said. “This is about educating citizens.”

Cochran, who saw the “Founding Fathers” show when it opened in Rome last September, said he “didn’t even know you could get a copy of the federal budget” until recently. Making sure others aren’t as “out of the loop” is why he said he facilitated bringing the cast, all residents of Rome, to Dalton.

Janice Hadaway, director of the Friends of the Constitution, said the cast is happy to put on another show, if only to “get people talking about important issues.” Most Americans, Hadaway said, are “largely ignorant” of American history, the Constitution and government spending.

“The very fact that a lot of Americans are ignorant puts us all in a very awkward position,” she said. “If we don’t even know what the Constitution says, how can we hold elected officials accountable?”

Hadaway said she didn’t know much about the government before the housing market crisis of 2008, which led to high unemployment and a nationwide recession. After that, she said, she wanted to make sure federal officials were actually doing their jobs.

For Cochran, rising federal debt is “scary” because it could mean more economic woes in the future and, in a disaster scenario, “slavery.”

“There’s two ways to enslave a person,” he said. “The first is chains on our wrists. ... The other way is to load someone with so much debt.”

Cochran said the rising national deficit will either usher in another government, “probably something socialist,” require printing money and lowering the value of the dollar, or demand hefty taxes that hurt individuals’ paychecks. That’s if Americans don’t demand specific, deep cuts to government spending, Cochran said.

Cochran, who supports a small, conservative government model, said he wants to see cuts to social initiatives like Social Security, WIC (Women, Infants and Children) or Medicare, and added that “Democrats should want to find cuts, too” because “debt impacts us all.”

Hadaway emphasized the production is “nonpartisan” and doesn’t endorse one view over another, featuring actors from across the political spectrum.

“Our objective is to educate citizens on what the Constitution allows the government to do and what it allows them to spend money on,” she said. “People can figure out for themselves if that’s actually what’s happening in our country. This is about education and empowering the people.”